The Song That Changed My Life

That title may be a bit over-dramatic. I mean, I’m not aware that this song has directly affected any major decisions I’ve made in life. It’s never come into my consideration of what jobs to apply for. It hasn’t changed my fundamental beliefs about the meaning of the universe. A typical “song that changed my life”-type story would probably be something along the lines of “I was going through a really tough illness/break-up/bereavement/other and the lyrics of [song] taught me that life is still worth living/no matter what other people think, I’m beautiful in my own way/etc…” That’s not the case with this song for me. In fact the lyrics are pretty much irrelevant.

On the other hand, in a sense you could say every song we’ve ever heard has changed our lives in some way. Even Rebecca Black’s Friday was life-changing in the sense that that’s 5 minutes of our lives that we could’ve spent doing something else but didn’t because we watched that video.

This song ranks somewhere in between the two in terms of significance, but closer to the first, because our lives don’t mainly consist of the few really big decisions we make like career, spouse, emigration…, but by all the little decisions we make each day about what to spend this £10 on and what to do for the next five minutes, and this song has had a significant effect on the amounts of time and money I’ve spent on listening to music and learning to play, and it’s affected where that time and money has been spent. Who knows what CDs might be on my shelf, or what instrument(s) might be standing in the corner of my bedroom if I’d never heard this song?

In 2002 I bought my first portable CD player, and if my memory serves me correctly, on the same day, it was my mum that spotted the CD single of that song I liked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, By The Way, in a bargain bucket in Woolworths. At that point that was the only song of theirs that I knew. Looking back, it’s funny to remember that once upon a time I didn’t know which band member was which (“Is Flea the one with the long hair?”).

Obviously By The Way is a classic, but it’s not the song this post is about. Track 2 of that CD single was their live cover of Iggy & The Stooges’ Search And Destroy, which is also available to watch on the Chilis’ Off The Map DVD:

It was this song that introduced me to the idea that good music is not just about catchy choruses, but talented musicians doing amazing, beautiful things with their instruments, especially what Mr Frusciante did with his guitar. In 12 minutes they cover pretty much everything I’ve learned to love about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, from high energy rock, to laid-back funk, to their softer melodic side. 10 years and thousands of other songs by countless different artists later, some of which have lasted through my changing tastes, many of which have not, this particular performance of this song still stands as a masterpiece and makes me want to go pick up my guitar again.


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